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Pete Whittaker and Mari Salvesen Go To Slab School

The pair joined slab wizard Talo Martin in Spain for some hard slabby routes and boulders

In Fall 2022, top trad climbers Pete Whittaker and Mari Salvesen met up with Talo Martin in La Pedriza, Spain to sample stout granite slabs and wide cracks. Martin, 42, is a slab climbing wizard. At 22-years-old, he decided to dedicate himself completely to the unique discipline of hard slab climbing. Over the years, he has racked up one of the best slab climbing resumes in the world, ticking numerous 5.14 slab routes and double-digit slab boulder problems. He has made 5.14b slab and V12 slab first ascents.

Known as the “Slabducator”, he has shared his insights with many pro climbers over the years. Via Instagram, Tom Randall had this to say about his recent trip to Spain to climb with Martin: “If you ever get to climb with Talo, you’ll probably learn more in one day than in one year normally. Insane. I don’t think I know anyone as Jedi with their feet other than Johnny Dawes.”

Martin recently released a new video as part of his Slabducation series, documenting Whittaker and Salvesen’s climbs. The nearly 24-minute film showcases Whittaker and Salvesen on some tough slab boulders and routes. Being some of the best crack climbers in the world, they also sample offwidth cracks and roped lines.

Salvesen made a redpoint of Placa Infinita, a V8 slab highball. “I was just trusting Talo’s beta,” she said. “He was just basically telling me left, right, left, right, left, right.” She also sent the slab route La Fabrica Ninjas 5.13a.

Whittaker flashed the slab line Match Point 5.13b. “Talo gave me some beta for the [route] so I managed to give that a good flash,” he said. “It was like climbing by numbers. He had gone up and chalked it for me. Then I climbed it and he said, ‘Right foot there, left foot there, right foot up—no to the right—yep!’ And I just basically followed his beta the whole way. It was a proper flash—all the beta I could get.” Whittaker also sent Los Hermanos Malasombra 5.13d on his first redpoint burn.

The pair put up a new V10 invert offwidth crack problem, naming it Wideducation. Whittaker made the first ascent, Salvesen the second. They also both also flashed the burly offwidth El Horror 5.13a, with Salvesen making the first female ascent.

Whittaker’s trad climbing resume is as impressive as it is varied. In 2011, he made the first ascent of the world’s hardest offwidth, Century Crack 5.14b, in Canyonlands National Park alongside Wide Boyz partner Tom Randall. In 2016, he became the first climber to rope-solo Yosemite’s El Cap in a day, when he redpointed Freerider 5.13 on self lead belay. In 2020, he climbed one of the most difficult trad climbs in the world, Recovery Drink 5.14c, located at the Profile Wall in Jøssingfjord, Norway.

Also in 2020, Whittaker free-soloed the Renshaw/Foulkes route on the Kjerag formation in Rogaland, Norway. He finished the 800m route in two hours and 25 minutes and filmed himself from multiple angles while climbing.  In Summer 2021, he and Randall made the first ascent of the 800m Great Rift 5.13, perhaps the strangest “trad” climb in the world. The pair spent four days and three nights climbing a 70-pitch horizontal crack on the underside of an elevated highway. In early 2022, Whittaker sent The Kraken V13, a roof crack boulder problem. In November 2022, he pulled off a flash of La Fuerza de la Gravedad 5.13d at the Vadiello crag in Spain in early November.

Salvesen has an impressive list of hard trad ticks. In December 2022, she made the first ascent of her four-year-long project, Tazlov 5.13d, an extremely bouldery roof crack near Bergen, Norway. In October, she sent El Horror 5.13b, an offwidth roof crack in Spain. On a trip to Indian Creek in early 2022, she sent five 5.13 cracks including an onsight of Wapiti and a flash of the notorious Belly Full of Bad Berries. In 2019, she made the first female ascent of Ray’s Roof E7 6c at Baldstones in Staffordshire. The horizontal offwidth crack remains a gritstone test-piece and is one of the hardest of its kind in the U.K.

Some of Salvesen’s other impressive climbs include The Shield C4/A3 on El Cap, Master’s Edge E7 6b in the Peak District, Misanthropie V11 in Fontainebleau, and Byrkjedalsfossen WI5+ 350m in Rogaland, Norway.